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Research Prominence

William Leggett receives prestigious lifetime achievement award

Dr. William Leggett.

William Leggett, professor emeritus in the Department of Biology and Queen's 17th principal, has received the H. Ahlstrom Lifetime Achievement Award from the Early Life History Section of the American Fisheries Society for his contributions to the fields of larval fish ecology.

The American Fisheries Society is the biggest association of professional aquatic ecologists in the world, with over 9,000 members worldwide.

"œIt feels good to be singled out by such large group of people who I respect so highly," says Dr. Leggett. "œI didn'™t expect to receive this award so it'™s a big honour and thrill to get it."

Dr. Leggett'™s research focuses on the dynamics of fish populations and his work as a biologist and a leader in education has been recognized nationally and internationally. A membership in the Order of Canada, a fellowship from the Royal Society of Canada, and the Award of Excellence in Fisheries Education are just some of the awards he has received for outstanding contributions to graduate education and marine science.

The Early Life History Section of the American Fisheries Society recognized Dr. Leggett'™s "œexceptional contributions to the understanding of early life history of fishes that has inspired the careers of a number of fisheries scientists worldwide and has led to major progress in fish ecology and studies of recruitment dynamics."

The award was recently presented in Quebec City at the 38th annual Larval Fish Conference held in conjunction with the 144th annual meeting of the American Fisheries Society.


Recognizing research and scholarship at Queen’s

The Prizes for Excellence in Research are Queen’s highest internal research award.

Prizes for Excellence in Research
Michael Cunningham (Chemical Engineering), Gabor Fichtinger (Computing), and Yan-Fei Liu (Engineering) are the 2020 recipients of the Prizes for Excellence in Research.

Three Queen’s researchers have earned the institution’s top recognition for research excellence. The researchers, Michael Cunningham (Chemical Engineering), Gabor Fichtinger (Computing), and Yan-Fei Liu (Engineering), are committed to advancing knowledge in a variety of fields, including polymer chemistry and green engineering, developing technologies for computer-integrated surgery and advancing power conversion systems.

The Prizes for Excellence in Research have been the signature internal research prize since 1980 and represent an important investment by Queen’s in recognizing research and scholarship across the faculties. This year, the awards are going to three recipients, with each being awarded a prize of $20,000, allocated for research and accessible through a special research account. Also new this year was a consideration of overall research impact and efforts in knowledge mobilization through collaborations and partnerships, and in sharing research beyond the academy.  

“My sincere congratulations to this year’s recipients of the Prizes,” says Kimberly Woodhouse, Vice-Principal (Research). “Nominated by their peers, Drs. Cunningham, Fichtinger, and Liu represent scholars who have successfully combined research excellence and knowledge translation – a winning combination.”

Michael Cunningham (Chemical Engineering): Dr. Cunningham’s research achievements in polymer chemistry and green engineering have attracted the attention of academics and numerous companies worldwide. He has spent 30 years studying how to reduce the environmental and health-related impacts of processes used to make materials that are essential for a modern society. His research group has pioneered major innovations in developing new water-based processes that eliminate the use of harmful chemicals in manufacturing processes, developed new materials that may replace solvent based products and offer new ways to purify drinking water, and more recently established new protocols for making renewably-sourced materials.

Gabor Fichtinger (School of Computing)Dr. Fichtinger is being recognized for seminal contributions to the development, clinical translation and global dissemination of novel technologies for computational imaging guidance in surgery and medical interventions. He is particularly respected for his ground-breaking work in image-guided interventional robotics. Dr. Fichtinger has also made worldwide impact by championing the development and dissemination of free open source software resources for computer-assisted cancer diagnosis and treatment, particularly targeting countries with limited technological resources. His Laboratory for Percutaneous Surgery is the world leader in this movement; their software offerings have been downloaded over 1 million times, contributing to healthcare, research and commercial development on a global scale.

Yan-Fei Liu (Electrical and Computer Engineering): Dr. Liu is a professor of electrical and computer engineering in the field of power electronics – a scientific field to which he has made numerous original and substantial contributions. His most significant work is concerned with the advancement of high frequency power conversion technology for its use in the telecommunications, computer and lighting industries. He is inventor of over 50 US Patents and has authored more than 90 journal papers. His work has been cited by more than 7,000 independent references and is widely used in industry worldwide.

Traditionally, the prizes are presented to recipients at convocation, and recipients also deliver a public presentation about their research. Given the current COVID-19 restrictions, the university is exploring options to celebrate this year’s recipients and to help them share their research findings with the community.

For further information, or to learn more about previous prize winners, visit the Office of the Vice-Principal (Research) website .

Indian day school survivors are seeking truth and justice

In January 2020, Canada began accepting claims emerging from a billion-dollar settlement with survivors of the Indian day schools. This landmark settlement has been embroiled by legal battles as well as additional lawsuits. In the meantime, survivors and the public have yet to learn how the $200 million, earmarked for education, healing and commemoration, will be used.

An estimated 200,000 Indigenous children were forced to attend Indian day schools that operated on First Nations reserves in every Canadian province from the mid-1800s until 2000. While the government of Canada funded the schools, the daily operations were run by the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian and Methodist churches and, later, the United Church of Canada.

We have collaborated on a new historical biography, Spirit of the Grassroots People: Seeking Justice for Indigenous Survivors of Canada’s Colonial Education System. The perspectives we bring are as an Indian day school survivor and activist (Raymond), author of this book, a mixed settler-Anishinaabe historian (Jackson) and a white settler scholar of education (Theodore), the book’s editors.

As historians of education, we believe that Canada must continue to come to grips with the full extent of its past. Schools and curricula are a part of this past, as well as the present and the future. They also laid the historical foundation of inequality for Indigenous students.

Attendance in Indian Day Schools vs Residential Schools in Ontario, 1871-1961. (Library and Archives Canada, Indian Affairs Annual Reports, 1864-1990)

Forced attendance, abuse

Since the official submission date for claims opened in January 2020, survivors have been navigating the confusing and lengthy written application of documenting their trauma and abuse.

While the settlement covers the costs for survivors to file a claim with the designated legal counsel, only recently have survivors been able to hire their own lawyers, who they themselves must pay. In June of this year, survivors also learned that they cannot change the level of claim they previously submitted.

Survivors who submit an application are entitled to a minimum of $10,000 for “harms associated with attendance” at one of the 699 recognized schools.

A man smiling.
Survivor Garry McLean attended the day school at Dog Creek First Nation. When McLean passed away in February 2019, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs noted that McLean recollected getting the strap because he didn’t know how to say ‘good morning’ in English. (Raymond Mason), Author provided

This does not include the approximately 700 Indian day schools that the federal government excluded from the settlement. Former students who were physically or sexually abused could receive between $50,000 to $200,000 based on “severity of the abuses suffered.”

This federal settlement was reached after extensive advocacy work by survivors.

Survivor Garry McLean, with Raymond, approached lawyers in 2016 after spending the previous seven years building a network of survivors and submitting a claim within the Manitoba court system. After extensive negotiations with the federal government, there was an announcement of an agreement in principle on Parliament Hill in December 2018. After additional negotiations, the final settlement worth $1.47 billion was announced in August 2019.

Survivors’ work has opened up processes of legal acknowledgement of wrongdoing and thus made possible a form of justice and compensation. As of Sept. 30, 2020, the settlement had received 84,427 claims and paid 27,690 survivors with another 56,737 applications still under review.

National inquiry into day schools

It has been over five years since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) presented their findings in a report and in Calls to Action. Since that time, ongoing injustices towards Indigenous people have led some to debate whether reconciliation is already dead. Yet the truth that was uncovered through oral testimony and historical research as part of the TRC has provided valuable knowledge to those who are listening.

Numerous departments in universities, colleges and public schools have begun incorporating the history of Indian residential schools into their curricula.

This process of seeking the truth is unfortunately not happening for Indian day schools survivors, despite an estimated 2,000 individuals who are passing away every year. It is time for a national inquiry into the history of Indian day schools and their ongoing legacy for the education of Indigenous students in Canada.

Helen Raptis, who has studied the history of Indian day schools in British Columbia, has argued that our understanding of Indigenous education “has been hampered by historians’ almost singular focus on residential schooling.” This is despite the fact that more students attended an Indian day school than a residential school in Canada.

Abuse, forced to abandon language

When the federal government, plaintiffs and lawyers announced the day schools agreement in principle in December 2018, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett, acknowledged:

“As a result of the harmful and discriminatory government policies at the time, students who attended these schools were subject to sexual, physical and psychological abuse and forced to abandon their language and culture. Survivors across this country continue to suffer from the abuse and horrific experiences they were subjected to, which were perpetuated by the very people charged with educating them as children.”

Since this announcement, neither the government nor any of the religious organizations involved, have launched a national inquiry or issued a formal apology. If the federal government and church organizations are unwilling to support an investigation into the full extent of survivors’ accounts of abuse, then historians and the general public must make it a priority to learn this history.

Book cover for Spirit of the Grassroots People
“Spirit of the Grassroots People: Seeking Justice for Indigenous Survivors of Canada’s Colonial Education System” (McGill-Queen's University Press)

Indian day school survivors and their descendants have already begun sharing their schooling experiences. Through organizing and sharing information about their claims and experiences on a growing Facebook group and articles by journalists such as Ka’nhehsí:io Deer, their stories are slowly becoming heard. The nearly 20,000-strong Facebook group offers mentors, guidance and a supportive community for survivors. This virtual place has become a primary source of information for claimants.

Mapping Indian day schools

From the perspective of survivors, such private forums are critical. However, they cannot replace the need for publicly accessible records, including digital records, for future generations of survivors’ descendants, historians and the general public.

In research at Queen’s University, we are now working towards a map-making project that will provide an online resource that visualizes the location of all Indian day schools and describes what archival files are available.

In addition to this, we invite Indian day school survivors to participate in a study that seeks to learn about their experiences through questions such as: What did you experience in Ontario’s Indian day school? How did these experiences impact you later in life? What would you like to be remembered about the Indian day schools?

These questions are only small steps towards a wider goal of providing an option for Indian day school survivors to tell their history without the interference of the government, lawyers or a claims administrator. The oral history from survivors will play an essential role in the memory of these events as evidenced from the testimonies of survivors of residential schools.

Click here for more articles in our ongoing series about the TRC Calls to Action.

Urgent response required

There is an urgent need to document history related to the day schools, and also to commit to holding Canada accountable for systemic injustices that continue to harm Indigenous lives and communities today.

Sen. Murray Sinclair, who chaired the TRC, has criticized the way the federal government has handled records related to residential schools’ survivors’ accounts. In June, he noted:

The disappearance [of records] is actually tragic because it means the information around the full and complete story of the residential school experiences … is not going to be told.”

This is despite the TRC’s call for a national review of archival policies. An ongoing battle over the records of residential school survivors stories and missing files is still an issue more than a decade later.

We believe that all Canadians must join with survivors in demanding transparent processes in the Indian day school settlement. This would involve funds being available to the legacy fund for the support of healing and education.

Seeking truth in history should begin with study of our educational systems. These embed our values and beliefs. The Indian day schools are a part of Canada’s history and directly affect every Canadian, not only those who survived them.The Conversation


Jackson Pind, PhD Candidate, Indigenous education, Queen's University; Raymond Mason, Community research partner, Peguis First Nation, and Theodore Christou, Professor, Social Studies and History Education, Queen's University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Investing in a healthy future

Queen’s University to partner with Toronto Innovation Acceleration Partners through recently announced funding from FedDev Ontario

The HonourableMélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages and Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), has announced funding for Toronto Innovation Acceleration Partners (TIAP). FedDev Ontario has committed $6.5 million, through the Regional Innovation Ecosystem stream, for TIAP’s Venture Builder Program. Queen’s University is collaborator under TIAP’s FedDev program. Queens will contribute to venture creation in therapeutics, medical devicesand health science AI by working with TIAP to accelerate the commercialization of Queen’s health science discoveries. 

The FedDev Ontario funding will be matched by Queen’s University and will leverage TIAP’s expertise in technology evaluation, access management talent for health science ventures, and support the growth of health science companies into anchor companies in Southern Ontario. 

“Queen’s University is delighted to collaborate with TIAP and its academic members in the recently launched Venture Builder Program,” says Kimberly Woodhouse, Vice-Principal Research. “Partnerships like these are critically important in ensuring that scientific breakthroughs are transformed into positive outcomes for human health.” 

In addition to gaining access to TIAP’s expertise, networks and resources, Queen’s will receive funding over four years through TIAP’s FedDev Ontario funding award, which is expected to be invested in a number of companies selected by TIAP and Queen’s, with the remainder allocated to support specialized services delivered through Queen’s. 

TIAP is tremendously pleased that FedDev Ontario has recognized the importance of the health science innovation community. We look forward to working more closely with Queen’s University to expand current venture development programs and facilitate the path forward for new discoveries," says Parimal Nathwani, President and CEO of TIAP. 

“Queen’s has an active portfolio of early-stage assets that will benefit from the Venture Builder Program,” says Jim Banting, Assistant Vice-Principal, Partnerships and Innovation.

For more information, visit www.tiap.ca 

Putting a stamp on the season

Queen’s University professor Gauvin Alexander Bailey consulted on this year’s Christmas stamp for the United States Postal Service.

Over Christmas, millions of letters and packages are delivered all over the world, affixed with special stamps for the season. But how are the images for the stamps selected? 

Queen’s University art expert Gauvin Alexander Bailey acted as a consultant for the selection of artwork for this year’s United States Post Service (USPS) Christmas stamp. This year’s version of the stamp features a detail of Our Lady of Guápulo. Painted by an unknown artist, likely an Amerindian working in Cuzco, Peru, the 18th-century oil painting depicts the Virgin Mary looking down at a richly dressed Christ Child. 

As an acknowledgment of the importance of Latinx culture in the United States, the USPS wanted a Christmas image that reflected this community and the rich cultural heritage of Spanish America in general. They contacted Dr. Bailey (Art History and Art Conservation) who is an expert in Southern European and Latin American Baroque Art to review the selection. 

“I was approached in 2017 by PhotoAssist, a Maryland-based image fact-checking company contracted by the United States Postal Service because the USPS wanted to make a Christmas stamp with a Latin American image. One of my specialties is colonial Latin American painting,” explains Dr. Bailey. “As a consultant I reviewed art, text, and subject matter to make sure the painting and its historical significance are represented accurately.” 

Dr. Bailey says normally the Madonna and Child images chosen for Christmas are European in origin – in the past many have been from the Italian Renaissance, from U.S. museums (e.g. a Florentine Renaissance one for the 2016 Christmas stamp, from the National Gallery of Art). Our Lady of Guápulo is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

This oil painting depicts a pilgrimage image of the Virgin and Child (a dressed sculpture) named the Virgin of the Rosary of Guápulo in present-day Ecuador. She herself is a 1584 copy of a Spanish sculpture called the Virgin of Guadalupe. In fact, “Guápulo” was a local Quito mispronunciation of “Guadalupe.” Toward the end of the 17th century paintings of the sculpture began to proliferate as a way of raising funds for the original shrine and the Virgin’s cult spread throughout the Andes. 

“The painting on the USPS Christmas stamp represents the apex of colonial painting in South America and is painted with extreme delicacy and attention to detail, particularly of the costume,” says Dr. Bailey, Bader Chair in Southern Baroque Art. “What makes it interesting is that it is not just a copy of the original but reflects Peruvian taste in the lavishness of its costume and golden crowns, and in the prominence of the floral bouquet.” 

For more information, view the stamp here

Make your whole day matter

Queen’s University researchers contribute to new health guidelines that recommend moving more, sleeping well, and cutting down sedentary time.

With COVID-19 posing many challenges to overall physical and mental health, it is more important than ever for people to have a clear understanding of what they can do throughout the day to stay healthy.  

Robert Ross

Queen’s University researchers Robert Ross and Jennifer Tomasone have helped develop the first ever 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Adults that show what a healthy use of 24 hours looks like. The guidelines are unique because they integrate the three movement behaviours (physical activity, sedentary, and sleep behaviours) for those aged 18-64 and 65 and older. They also feature new recommendations on light physical activity including standing. 

“These guidelines pull together the best available evidence from across the globe to show Canadians how to make their whole day matter when it comes to movement behaviour,” says Dr. Ross (School of Kinesiology and Health Studies), Chair, Guideline Development Panel. “They are arriving at a critical juncture in the country’s overall health. It’s important that Canadians understand that while it may feel challenging at times, some activity is always better than none and progressing towards any of the guideline targets will result in important health benefits.” 

Jennifer Tomasone

The guidelines were developed by the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP), the Public Health Agency of Canada, Queen’s University, ParticipACTION, and a network of researchers and stakeholders from across Canada. 

Even before COVID-19, Canadian adults received a grade of “D” for overall physical activity according to the ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Adults. The Report Card also showed 29 per cent of adults in Canada fall within the “low active” lifestyle category and adults 18 to 79 years old are sedentary for almost 10 hours per day. 

“To increase Canadians’ awareness of the new guidelines, our knowledge translation team has created a suite of evidence-based public-facing materials,” says Dr. Tomasone (School of Kinesiology and Health Studies), Chair, Knowledge Translation Team. “These materials are designed to highlight that by moving more, reducing sedentary time, and sleeping well, we can make our whole day matter for our health. The materials are freely and openly available for sharing at csepguidelines.ca and ParticipACTION.com” 

The Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines focus on three core recommendations for adults: 

  • Move More: Add movement throughout your day, including a variety of types and intensities.  Aim to accumulate at least 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous aerobic physical activity, muscle strengthening activities at least twice a week, and several hours of light physical activities, including standing. Those 65+ should also include physical activities that challenge balance.
  • Reduce Sedentary Time: Limit sedentary time to eight hours or less per day including no more than three hours of recreational screen time and breaking up long periods of sitting where possible. 
  • Sleep Well: For those aged 18-64 set yourself up for seven to nine hours of good quality sleep on a regular basis, and seven to eight hours for those 65+ years.  Consistent bed and wake up times are also key. 

According to the research, adults following the guidelines can achieve health benefits including a lower risk of death, cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, weight gain, several cancers, and improved bone health. Specific to psychosocial health, participation in optimal levels of movement behaviours has been linked to improved anxiety, depression, dementia, cognition and quality of life. For adults 65+, they can also see a lower risk of falls and fall-related injuries. 

To learn more about the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Adults, visit csepGuidelines.ca. For ideas and resources on how to get more active, visit ParticipACTION.com and download the ParticipACTION app.  

The power of computers

A Queen’s alumnus develops an innovative platform that harnesses idle computer power to aid groundbreaking research.

Dan Desjardins
Queen's alumnus Daniel Desjardins, an assistant professor (Physics and Space Science) at the Royal Military College of Canada, and his team at Kings Distributed Systems (KDS), have collaborated with Queen’s Partnerships and Innovation and Queen’s faculty members to develop a distributed computing model.

The expectation surrounding what our computer devices can do for us has grown exponentially in recent years. The COVID-19 pandemic is the most recent example of how we are testing the limits of our computer speeds, as we juggle Skype and Zoom calls from home, while managing emails, searching websites and writing documents. A fast and reliable computing platform is especially important to Queen’s researchers, who need to be able to analyze data in a timely, cost-efficient way. 

Daniel Desjardins, a Queen’s alumnus (Physics PhD) and assistant professor (Physics and Space Science) at the Royal Military College of Canada, and his team at Kings Distributed Systems (KDS), have collaborated with Queen’s Partnerships and Innovation and Queen’s faculty members to develop a distributed computing model to aide these efforts. KDS has built a secure platform to help researchers and decision-makers with a variety of projects, including the critical analysis and policy making surrounding COVID-19.

Evolving Distributed Computing

Although the concept of distributed computing has been around since the 1960s, Dr. Desjardins’s team adapted the technology to use cutting edge web technology in a modern setting.

“Whenever our special screensaver is running, we can harness the computer's idle computing power, even if no one is logged in” says Dr. Desjardins. “Our web-based platform is the most powerful, secure, portable, easy to use, and future-proof platform on the market. It is also faster and cheaper than commercial cloud.”

Kings Distributed Systems was created in 2017, and its development and growth has been fostered by the Queen’s Partnership and Innovation team and the Queen’s Centre for Advanced Computing.

“The university trialed our technology at the Centre for Advanced Computing and on a cluster of computers on campus,” says Dr. Desjardins.  “Our platform allowed a Queen's researcher in physics to deploy a large computational workload and spread it automatically across 40 on-campus computers that were otherwise sitting idle. Those computers, connected by our platform, were able to work together to complete the job in minutes instead of days.”

KDS works with a host of clients, in both non-profit and for-profit sectors. KDS has even developed an educational hybrid computing platform, called the Distributed Compute Labs, which spreads computations over the many idle computers found in schools, homes, and businesses instead of in commercial cloud data centers. It provides this technology at no cost to universities and high schools across Canada.

Dr. Desjardins’s companies maintain a close connection to Queen’s.  

“Over the last three years we've hired 13 students, co-sponsored seven student conferences and hackathons, participated in their business accelerator programs, and, together, have applied for and been awarded over $5.2M in government funding for joint projects” he says.

KDS has also received mentorship and connections for resources through Queen’s Partnerships and Innovation (QPI) and receptors such as the Eastern Ontario Leadership Council and the Greater Kingston Chamber of Commerce.

Applications to Policy-Making

Recently, Kings Distributed Systems and research partners at Queen’s and elsewhere received funding through the Government of Canada’s Digital Supercluster initiative to lead a project called The Looking Glass: Protecting Canadians in a Return to Community. The team is building a database that uses predictive modelling to help decision-makers determine the impact that a proposed policy will have on public health and the economy. With partners and contributors from a range of institutions and industry across Canada, this diverse collaboration will develop Looking Glass into a powerful tool to forecast not only COVID-19 infection rates from actions such as re-opening schools, but also other critical public health issues like vaccination campaigns and managing tick-borne diseases.

Edge Computing

The collaborations between KDS and Queen’s continue to grow. Queen’s was recently awarded a large NSERC Alliance award with KDS as the industry partner and Hossam Hassanein (School of Computing) as the lead Principal Investigator. Dr. Hassanein, his team, and KDS are embarking on a four-year, $3-million project that will look into the concept of “edge computing,” technology where data is processed by the device itself or by a local computer or server, rather than being transmitted to a data centre, making it accessible to everyone. This emerging technology could be applied to many applications, like smart homes, transportation and city applications, thus magnifying Canada's impact in the IT and smart services sectors.

“The proposed research will democratize edge computing by exploiting unused heterogeneous computing resources and recycled resources of existing infrastructures to create distributed edge computing clusters,” says Dr. Hassanein. “With our industry partner KDS, we will make edge computing accessible to all rather than restricted to the control of cloud service providers and network operators. This will open an entirely new market for Canadian businesses and local governments, who will be able to act as edge providers themselves.”

During the project Dr. Hassanein’s team will train a diverse group of more than 20 talented, highly-qualified personnel who will go on to help further advance Canada's edge computing technologies and help maintain Canada's leadership in Information and computer technology.

Speaking of the future, Dr. Desjardins says he already has his sights set on new ventures.

“We want to share this technology with 10 more Canadian universities and high schools over the next six months," he says. "On the enterprise, we are scaling out to more verticals and on-boarding more large clients who want to reduce their expenditure on commercial cloud. In the long run, our vision is for our technology to become the web standard for distributed and edge computing.”

Researcher garners prestigious Fulbright Fellowship

Queen’s University researcher Heather Castleden awarded a Fulbright Visiting Research Chair at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa to engage with Native Hawaiians about their leadership in renewable energy projects

Queen’s University associate professor and Canada Research Chair in Reconciling Relationships for Health, Environments, and Communities, Heather Castleden will be conducting a 4-month research program at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa after being named a Fulbright Fellow. 

Dr. Heather Castleden
Dr. Heather Castleden

The mandate of Fulbright Canada is to enhance mutual understanding between the people of Canada and the United States by providing support to outstanding individuals. The winners of this prestigious honour conduct research, lecture or enrol in formal academic programs in the other country. 

Dr. Castleden is bringing her A SHARED Future (Achieving Strength, Health, and Autonomy through Renewable Energy Development for the Future) program to the islands in an effort to expand the program’s international reach and scope. A Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) funded program that brings forward stories of healing and reconciliation in an innovative context, a SHARED Future builds intersectoral partnerships between communities through with renewable energy projects. 

The research program is comprised of nine thematically linked projects across Canada and has built a network of over 75 Indigenous and Settler scholars, government, non-governmental organizations, industry, and community-based team members from across the globe. Through this, the program aims to bring forward stories of healing, reconciliation, and autonomy through intersectoral energy projects. 

“Hawaii is a leader in renewable energy in the United States and around the world,” says Dr. Castleden (Geography and Planning). “The islands’ State has made a bid to transition off fossil fuels and to a 40 per cent reduction in energy usage by 2030; it supports a 100 per cent renewable energy economy by the year 2045.” 

“I am hoping to learn, through sharing stories with Native Hawaiian leaders, activists, and community members, to what extent their knowledge systems in the context of independent and/or intersectoral partnerships for renewable energy are leading towards more ‘healthful environments’ and how these stories might align with or be distinct from with we are learning here in Canada because there is a pressing need to healing our relations with each other, as well as the land, air, and water around us.” 

Dr. Castleden’s approach to research is community-based and participatory, which requires time and flexibility to develop meaningful relationships before research begins. The COVID-19 pandemic may produce some new and unexpected challenges for the team as they work to reach out and connect with the public but, she says she is confident they will still be able to explore the role that renewable energy might play in Native Hawaiian autonomy, self-determination, health and well-being. 

“We will also be sharing the research findings from A SHARED Future with Native Hawaiian leaders, renewable energy champions, and community members, as well as with faculty and students at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa,” Dr. Castleden adds. 

She says she hopes the time spent in Hawaii through the Fulbright Fellowship will result in important cross-continental communication and solidarity-building transforming into a large-scale international program of research involving many of A SHARED Future’s  international advisors: Elders, Indigenous health scholars, energy transition scholars, and Knowledge-Keepers from the US, Australia, Aotearoa/New Zealand, and Sweden as well as Canada.  

Health researchers receive funding from CIHR

Faculty of Health Sciences researchers receive funding from CIHR
Researchers receiving funding from the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) include, clockwise from top left: Nader Ghasemlou; Annette Hay; Mohammed Auais; Charles Graham; Andrew Craig; and Lynne-Marie Postovit.

Seven members of the Faculty of Health Sciences have been awarded with a total of $5.76 million in funding from the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR), Canada’s federal agency for funding health research. The CIHR Project Grants are designed to support researchers at any career stage build and conduct health-related research and knowledge translation projects. All seven grants have been awarded to successful applicants of the CIHR Spring 2020 Project Grant competition, the results of which can be viewed at the CIHR’s website

The successful researchers are: Mohammed Auais, Andrew Craig, Nader Ghasemlou, Charles Graham, Annette Hay, Martin Paré, and Lynne-Marie Postovit.  

Dr. Auais is a registered physical therapist and assistant professor with the School of Rehabilitation Therapy. His research is focused on improving health outcomes for community-dwelling older adults who have suffered from hip fractures. As the number of hip fractures continues to grow, post-hip fracture care shifts from hospitals to community health services. Dr. Auais has been funded to test a novel rehabilitation program called Stronger at Home in a six-year clinical trial. The new program consists of a user-friendly patient toolkit and a new model of care that includes personalized, at-home physiotherapy, and evaluation of its impact and cost-effectiveness up to 12 months after discharge from the hospital.  

Dr. Craig is associate head research in the Department of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences and a principal investigator at Queen’s Cancer Research Institute. His funded research program aims to improve responses of ovarian cancer to both chemotherapy and immunotherapy. Ovarian cancer is a leading cause of cancer-related deaths in Canadian women, and advances in ovarian cancer therapies are needed. Dr. Craig’s research will use advanced genetic and pharmacological tools to identify new combinations of therapies that improve therapy responses in ovarian cancer patients and identify fundamental mechanisms of tumour biology.  

Dr. Ghasemlou is an assistant professor in the departments of Anesthesiology and Biomedical & Molecular Sciences, and director of Queen’s Translational Research in Pain. His research is focused on better understanding neuro-immune interactions in post-operative pain. His recent work has found that immune cells in the skin produce specific signaling mediators that activate sensory neurons to cause pain. Additionally, he has determined that by blocking the receptors of these proteins, pain can be substantially reduced. Dr. Ghasemlou’s proposal will examine how these cells communicate with pain-sensing neurons, and to how this can be used to prevent and treat pain.  

Dr. Graham is a professor with the Department of Biomedical & Molecular Sciences. His research is focused on the role of innate immune memory in the response to immunotherapy of bladder cancer. Bladder cancer is one of the most common cancers worldwide, and the immunotherapy used to treat bladder cancer involves the administration of bacteria, which cause the patients’ immune system to fight the cancer cells. Unfortunately, up to half of patients do not respond fully and the cancer returns. Dr. Graham and his team of co-investigators are conducting research that aims to better understand how this immunotherapy works and why some patients don’t respond well. This work would lead to the development of new bladder cancer treatment methods. 

Dr. Hay is a hematologist and associate professor with the Department of Medicine, and a senior investigator with the Canadian Cancer Trials Group. Dr. Hay is studying the treatment of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL), an incurable blood malignancy, and aims to compare the effectiveness of two Ibrutinib dose strategies. Ibrutinib, while used to treat CLL, often results in negative consequences such as major bleeding and heart rhythm abnormalities. Recent work on dose reduction strategies confirmed that at lower doses these consequences are diminished, while the activity of ibrutinib can be fully maintained. This project will evaluate a lower dose (3-2-1 Strategy) against full dose of Ibrutinib, with the goal of reducing patients’ side effects and treatment costs.  

Dr. Paré is a professor with the Department of Biomedical & Molecular Sciences. His research aims to gain a comprehensive understanding of the effects of drugs used in mental disorders to modify cognitive function. Dr. Paré’s project will evaluate task performance and memory to investigate how drugs used in the treatment of ADHD can impact their function. Findings from this study will help to better understand the neural mechanisms that are dysfunctional in mental disorders and become impaired in aging.  

Dr. Postovit is a professor and head of the Department of Biomedical & Molecular Sciences. Her research interests involve improving treatment options for cancers whose observable characteristics commonly revert to more generalized conditions or structures. These cancers no longer look like the tissue from which they arise, but rather look more like tissue in an embryo, and as a result have a very poor prognosis. Dr. Postovit’s CIHR-funded study will determine the extent to which this phenomenon is promoted by the loss of components of the SWI/SNF protein complex. In addition, it will determine how to target and kill cancers which undergo this process.

The obesity paradox: Obese patients fare better than others after heart surgery

The Conversation: For patients recovering from heart surgery, being overweight or moderately obese appears to be an advantage over being underweight or even having a normal BMI.
Patients who were overweight and obese had lower mortality rates following cardiac surgery than those with BMIs in the normal or underweight range. (Shutterstock)


The World Health Organization has declared obesity to be a global epidemic that “threatens to overwhelm both developed and developing countries.” However, is obesity always bad when it comes to health?

Certainly, obesity is a significant risk factor for the development of many chronic conditions, including heart disease. However, research has shown that in a number of situations, being overweight may actually be of benefit. This phenomenon has been called the “obesity paradox.”

Our group from the departments of public health sciences and anesthesiology and perioperative medicine at Queen’s University investigated the relationship between body mass index (BMI, a commonly used ratio of weight to height) and outcomes after heart surgery. We analyzed a large database of health records of almost 80,000 patients having open coronary bypass surgery in Ontario over a 13-year period using data from ICES, a not-for-profit research institute in Ontario. We tracked five-year survival rates as well as complications occurring during the year after surgery.

We found that patients in the overweight and moderately obese categories made up two-thirds of all cardiac surgery patients. However, these patients actually had lower death rates and complications than patients in the normal weight, underweight and morbidly obese categories.

The highest risk of complications was seen at the extremes of BMI, meaning patients in the underweight and the morbidly obese categories. Such a relationship has also been found in other patient groups with different medical conditions or procedures.


Bar graph showing mortality rates for BMI ranging from underweight through morbidly obese. The underweight category has significantly higher mortality that the others, while the overweight and obese categories have the lowest.
Mortality rates following cardiac surgery by BMI. (Ana Johnson), Author provided

Economies of scale

In addition to the difference in complication rates, there are economic implications for these findings. We analyzed the financial costs of coronary bypass surgery and the medical care during the year following surgery in a group of over 53,000 patients over a 10-year period.

Not surprisingly, due to the disproportionate number of patients in these categories having heart surgery, overweight and obese patients accounted for the overall majority of health-care costs, a total of $1.4 billion (in 2014 Canadian dollars), compared to $788 million for the other BMI categories combined. However, the average cost of care per patient in the overweight and obese categories was substantially lower than in the normal weight, underweight and morbidly obese categories.

Weighing in on weight gain

This does not necessarily mean that weight gain should be recommended to reduce these risks. The scientific literature is consistent that obesity and lack of fitness are associated with cardiovascular disease, as well as many other risk factors for heart disease such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

However, once the need for surgery is determined, having excess body fat may provide increased energy reserves during a period of stress and healing that are not available to lower-weight patients. This advantage is lost in the case of extreme obesity, where the common presence of other related diseases and reduced mobility after surgery likely contribute to the increased complication rate.

The perils of frailty

On the other hand, we found that being underweight is associated with increased mortality in hospital patients and increased health costs. In fact, low BMI is more detrimental to the recovery from heart surgery than even extreme obesity. This may reflect the negative effects of frailty, which has been shown to adversely affect recovery from surgery.

A woman's feet standing on a scale that reads about 51 kilograms.
The higher mortality rates of heart surgery patients in the lowest BMI category may reflect the negative effects of frailty, which has been shown to adversely affect recovery from surgery. (Pixabay)


In addition to reduced body fat, patients in the underweight category typically have reduced muscle mass, which limits function and mobility even before surgery. That leaves them with little in reserve to resist the stress of major surgery and the prolonged recovery period afterwards.

Even when taking advanced age and other diseases into account, low BMI was independently associated with death and other complications after heart surgery. This suggests that patients who are frail might do better after surgery if — time permitting — they were offered an exercise and nutrition program before surgery.

What is normal anyway?

It’s also important to look at the BMI category that was considered to be the standard for comparison: patients in the so-called “normal” weight category. This is generally considered the optimal BMI and the target for most fitness strategies. However, in our study and others, patients in the normal weight category had worse outcomes than patients in the overweight and moderately obese categories.

Importantly, these results do not mean that fattening up the population in the normal weight band should become a public health goal.

First, as mentioned, patients who are overweight have a far higher risk of developing heart disease in the first place, and an ounce (or gram) of prevention is a much more effective health strategy than a pound (or kilogram) of cure. Improving the fitness of the population is one of the most important public health strategies for reducing heart disease and the need for heart surgery in the first place.

Second, it may well be that what is an optimal BMI in other situations should not be considered optimal for recovery from surgery, and so it would make sense to define a “normal” BMI according to the specific situation. In this sense, the obesity paradox might not be a paradox at all.

This article was also co-authored by Dr. Brian Milne, professor emeritus, anesthesiology and perioperative medicine, Queen’s University.The Conversation


Ana Johnson, Professor, Department of Public Health Sciences, Queen's University and Joel Parlow, Professor, Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine, Queen's University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


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